Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Stone Table

There is another tale of Narnia but we may never get to read it.
I wish I could recommend The Stone Table to you, but you cannot get it. Only 75 copies of the book exist....

...[I]t is the work of the British writer Francis Spufford.... Spufford wrote a memoir about his childhood reading, The Child That Books Built, that contains a half a chapter on C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books so good that when I first read it while researching my own Narnia-centric book on childhood reading, I almost gave up in despair. Spufford had nailed it, particularly when he wrote that Lewis had “invented objects for my longing, gave forms to my longing, that I would never have thought of, and yet they seemed exactly right: he had anticipated what would delight me with an almost unearthly intimacy. Immediately I discovered them, they became the inevitable expressions of my longing.” ....

...The Stone Table is an eighth Narnia chronicle, written not as a mere pastiche or parody but with deep and loving fidelity to the original seven. It recounts how Digory and Polly, the child heroes of the sixth chronicle (yes, I know the books come numbered in a different order now, but that is misbegotten pedantry and best ignored), got a chance to revisit Narnia a few years after the events in The Magician’s Nephew. They meet the last in a line of Narnia’s human kings, befriend an assortment of comical and endearing talking animals, battle a devious adversary, and go on the kind of quest my childhood self considered the only proper literary adventure: tromping through a wild countryside toward the mystical unknown. ....

The Stone Table tells the same sort of sweet homely jokes in the same confiding, avuncular voice: “If you have ever seen a lady otter try to curtsey, you will understand why they bow instead.” It has passages of incandescently sensual description, particularly a part where Polly drinks a potion that temporarily transforms her into a naiad, a water spirit, who can race through rivers and streams. And its plot hinges on the same kind of authentic moral quandaries that made me feel taken seriously as a child reader.

Spufford wrote The Stone Table, he told the Guardian, at the request of his daughter, Theodora, to whom it is dedicated, but also as a “present for my younger self, though sadly I have no Tardis to deliver it to him.” It may never be conventionally published because Lewis’ work remains under copyright through 2034, and his estate has expressed no interest in authorizing it. .... (more)

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